It's the shell you've wrapped round your authentic, natural self. Let's call it your "personality." I've had one for years and I don't know how I couldn't have one. What gets tricky is when I think that me and my personality are the same thing.
It is a bit like putting on a mask and then forgetting about it. There's this weird uncomfortable feeling, but you can't put your finger on why...
If you have an uber-competent personality it may look like that serves you well. I thought mine did. And yet I had to face some inevitable facts:
- The personality is not you.
- The personality is actually the biggest barrier to knowing you.
- The personality is not what people really appreciate about you.
All the time spent evaluating ourselves, measuring and comparing, has never been put on pause long enough to consider the deeper question that lies behind it. Unless we do, we may look in the mirror many times a day and the greatest mystery on the planet remains the face staring back.
I rarely reflected on the question, "Who am I underneath who I think I am?" I could tell you who I thought I should be. I could tell you who I was trying to become or how I was doing in relation to so-and-so. But me? On a deeper level? Very blurry.
I just assumed that I was my personality. I tried to make this personality of mine better and "special." I tried to make "me" into someone I would like. ( Remember "love yourself"? ... I did not succeed). We construct a version of a person that our own constricted minds are thinking of and within those parameters, of course it's going to be an imitation version. Roll on the self-improvement ...
As I began to ponder "what is me?" I began to notice that the personality I had became used to referring to as "me" was entirely composed of -- just things I think about myself. There was a the tableau of traits and characteristics that I called myself, but these were no more than a bunch of thoughts I'd had. They just happened to be about something I call me.
I had made myself up out of nothing. Out of thought.
Other people did not necessarily share the view of who I thought I was and so I also incorporated their opinions into my own thinking about me.
I remember first getting a glimpse of the depth of this as I came to know Robert Holden (listen to my radio show with him) who called the ego "the sum total of all the smallest ideas you've ever had about yourself."
It hit me that I really had constructed me. And I was terribly small. It began to dawn that, since the personality was a construct in itself, it could never find the answer to Me. The answer was beyond the content of my own thinking.
I look out through two eyes from something I call my body. I think the limits of my body are "me." I pass or fail a test, I think the results tell "me" something "I" am suited for or not suited for. I get divorced and I think this means something about "me." Thoughts. All just thoughts.
We minimize our capacities -- based on opinions that just float past -- and yet talk about them as facts and live the limitations as truth.
I was reminded of this recently when I had a client here in San Diego for a 3-day retreat and I related how people walk up to me when I am on my skates and just blurt out, "I could never do that!" The truth is, they can't possibly know that. They don't have the slightest idea. But this does not stop people from deciding precisely what they will or will not believe about themselves.
When you realize that what you think you are made of is nothing more than a jumble of ideas, maybe it's time to start asking "What is beneath what I think I am?"
the same innate source of
wisdom, but it is hidden by the
tangle of our own misguided
- Sydney Banks
The Missing Link